Denis Healey: Blair must quit if he is wrong about these weapons

Share
Related Topics

Despite all the Prime Minister says, I am simply not convinced that there was any serious evidence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, and I am disturbed by attempts to falsify evidence in order to show that there was. The UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix, did not find any. He is an extremely honest and intelligent man, and I think it is worrying that the Americans will not let him back to continue his work. He believes that the Allies' intelligence on Iraq was shaky, and warns that it may turn out that the war was not justified.

The evidence seems to support this view. Doubts have been expressed over whether the trailers seized in Iraq are actually chemical and biological weapons laboratories as claimed. We must ask why, if Saddam had WMD, he did not use them when we attacked him? One of the British government's dossiers outlining the crimes of Saddam's regime was plagiarised from a paper by an American student of political science. The attempts to link Iraq with al-Qa'ida were simply implausible; the last thing Saddam would ever have done would be to help a terrorist he could not control.

One need only witness how the British and the Americans have twisted and turned in response to such accusations to see how weak their case was. The CIA is already reviewing the accuracy of claims about WMD, and is complaining that the Pentagon is pressing them to find evidence to bolster the case for war. The US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has stated that Saddam may have destroyed his WMD. John Reid, the Leader of the House of Commons, has blamed "rogue elements" in the intelligence services for undermining the Government's case for war. But in my opinion it is much more likely that the hyping of the evidence came from the Government, not the security services.

It is clear to me that there should be an independent inquiry, like the 1996 Scott inquiry over arms to Iraq or the Franks inquiry over the Falklands war. The Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee is investigating the matter, as is the Intelligence and Defence Committee, but I do not think an inquiry carried out by MPs, who are subject to ministerial pressure, is likely to be convincing.

The sooner we get the answers the better. I do not see any reason why it should take a very long time. The issues are few and very specific. All the people they have to interrogate are easily available in Washington and London. They should be able to make the conclusions public in a few weeks.

The American public does not worry about finding WMD as much as the British. And, of course, Americans know much less about foreign affairs. That is a very dangerous situation. However, I'm sure that the Bush administration will have to come to terms with reality. They will eventually be forced to rebuild relations with the rest of the world's powers. They have done that already so far as Russia is concerned, and they're trying to avoid worsening relations with Germany, critically important in a Europe soon to be enlarged. France is simply an easy target, and always has been for the Americans.

One certainty which arises from the invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein is that there will be a great increase in Islamic fundamentalism. Jordan and Egypt explicitly made this warning before the war began. We might even see the fall of pro-Western governments in the Islamic world.

Most obviously at risk is Saudi Arabia, the base of Western interests in the Middle East. And the overthrow of the Pakistani government, a state which has nuclear weapons, would be absolutely disastrous. An Islamic fundamentalist state with nuclear arms would be extremely dangerous. And this terrible situation has been wholly brought about by the stupidity of Western governments.

And if weapons are found? It will help Blair no end, but it will be extremely difficult to explain why Saddam did not use them when he fought us. And why should Hans Blix and his inspectors be prevented from returning? I would not put it past the Americans to plant their own weapons of mass destruction there.They have already tried to sell the ridiculous story about Saddam acquiring nuclear material from Niger, a claim latter shown to be utterly fraudulent.

The future of the Prime Minister and this government will depend on how things develop from this point. It is very much in his hands. If Blair were to hold his hands up and say, "I'm sorry I made a mistake," he would be strengthened rather than weakened. But if he is found out to have been wrong about those weapons - or worse, that he knowingly made false statements - I believe he should be replaced as leader. I suspect many in the party would agree, if there is no evidence found that Iraq was capable of presenting an imminent threat in the run-up to war.

Of course, the main contender to replace Tony Blair is his Chancellor, Gordon Brown. And I do not think Brown would have made all these mistakes over Iraq. The difference between the two men is that Blair is too worried about his place in history, while I don't think Brown is at all.

Regardless of personalities, discontent and anger will continue to grow inside the Labour Party. The only scenario that could stop that, namely an unequivocal discovery of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, is looking less and less likely with each day that passes.

The writer is a former Defence Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Tax Solicitor

£40000 - £70000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Tax Solicitor An excel...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: This is an exce...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns